Graduation is a time of beginnings; it is a time to experience changes. I graduated in 1995 and our Young Money intern, Ellen, is graduating this semester.
You’ve probably heard the expression “what a difference a day makes.” Anyone who can remember 1995 simply has to look around to see what a huge difference 15 years can make. We’ve gone from cell phones being bulky and expensive to sleek, powerful iPhones and Blackberries. We are now able to store an amazing amount of data into a flash drive that can easily slip into your pocket. And the Internet has moved from 14.4 kbs modems connected through the phone lines to wireless connections transferring huge amounts of data in the blink of an eye.
In fact, I can remember my senior year of college when my roommate showed me how to use email. Even though I didn’t fully understand it, I realized that it was important.
Today, we are a culture that is technology obsessed. We are living in the future. As Ellen gets ready to graduate college and enter the “real world” we thought it might be fun to do a quick comparison of my graduation year (1995) and hers (2010). Of course we can’t cover everything that was happening then and is happening now, but we thought it might be fun to do a brief rundown of some of the highlights from 1995 and some of the highlights of 2009 – 2010.
Before 1995, HIV was a terrifying death sentence. But, that year the FDA approved the first protease inhibitors, giving thousands of people a lone ray of hope. Protease inhibitors target protease, a protein that the HIV virus needs to replicate. With the arrival of these new antiviral drugs, the number of people who were dying began to drop dramatically.
Another, far less dramatic change that occurred in 1995 was the introduction of disposable contact lenses to America.
In 1995, scientists sequenced the DNA of the first free-living bacterial genome (1.8 million base pairs) of Haemophilus influenzae and the first animal genome. They used a method called Whole Genome Shotgun Sequencing, allowing them to do in months what would have otherwise taken years. Because of this breakthrough, a few years later, the Human Genome Project sequenced human DNA years earlier than expected.
The sequencing of human DNA has lead to many advances in the medical field. Now, you can choose your baby’s eye, hair color and sex, and in a few years parents may have open access to genetic tests that screen for hundreds of diseases. Right now, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority doesn’t approve of genetic testing for many harmful and life threatening diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or Alzheimer’s. Even so, scientists have discovered that swapping defective DNA with healthy genetic material through a ‘transplant technique’ very similar to IVF treatments, creates embryos free of mitochondrial disease. This technology can someday save thousands of lives.
Today more Americans use debit card instead of credit cards. In 1995 VISA launched its check card and changed banking as we know it. But, before 1995, only 2 percent of Americans used a debit card.
In 1994, online stock trading was introduced by a predecessor to Ameritrade. By 1995, many stockbrokers and their fees were falling out of favor as some investors turned their PC’s into gambling machines and became day traders.
Today it’s possible to do all of your banking over your cell phone. The number of people paying bills online has soared. Now, not only do you have constant access to your day-to-day spending habits, but with banking programs like moneyStrands Mobile or Bundle’s ViceTracker iPhone application, you can compare your spending with the rest of the world. It is money management and social media wrapped up together and easily accessed on your phone.
1995 was the year of the DVD. No more rewinding video cassettes, now hours of footage (including thrilling Director’s cuts and insights from the actors) could be held on one thin little disc.
It is evident that over time we have been able to input large amounts of information into smaller pieces of technology. Around the world, consumers are pointing their fingers to get what they want. Apple’s recently released iPad is already flying off the shelves, allowing users access to a movie and music player, a photo album, and e-book reader while scrolling through hundreds of other applications. In Japan, you have the option of interlinking your fingerprint with your bank account. So if you decide to buy a Coke, there’s no need to pull out your wallet—you can just walk up to the vending machine and scan your finger.
Science fiction predicted reality TV. And it was terrifying.
Many of the advances in health and technology seem like science fiction. And, in fact, science fiction has predicted many of the things we have witnessed in the past few decades. For example, reality TV first showed up in Science Fiction classics. In George Orwell’s 1984 people are constantly monitored through two-way TV screens. “Big Brother” is the authority figure in the book, and it’s not a coincidence that it is the name of one of the first big reality TV shows. Walter F. Moudy’s 1965 story “Survivor” was about the 2050 Olympic War Games between Russia and the U.S. Each side gets 100 soldiers; the goal is to kill each other off. The whole thing is televised. No voting people off of the island but there are plenty of other similarities.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World natural reproduction is done away with and children are hatched in laboratories.
Isaac Asimov’s iRobot is a warning against trusting too much in technology. And, of course, Terminator warns of a super computer that can think for itself turning on us and enslaving us.
These may seem like fantasy or just plain fun but it is something that we should keep in mind. Over the next fifteen years, we can count on new ideas and advancements to enter our world. The big question is are these advances taking us to a bright and better way of living or are they leading us like cattle in a field? Will we end up enlightened and evolved or fat and useless like those lounge-chair dwellers in that prophetic, soon-to-be classic movie Wall-E?